Shopping in San Francisco is a delightful experience with varied shopping centres, charming districts and wonderful malls to keep you interested.
Some of the city's best shopping is at its museums. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art store has an incredible selection of art books, posters, DVDs and other beautiful curios, while the Exploratorium offers an irresistible range of interactive toys, robots, experiment kits and other science themed media and curios. The Asian Art Museum has the city's best collection of books, fabrics, statues, bowls and jewellery in theme with its expansive exhibits on Asian art through the centuries.
For an authentic experience of Japanese culture with all the weird and wonderful shops that go along with it, visit Japan Center on Geary Street. This center, which meanders through several buildings on a second-storey skyway, contains dozens of stores selling everything from manga to traditional medicine. Coupled with the excellent sushi restaurants it's like being transplanted into Tokyo for the afternoon.
The prime shopping area is probably Union Square, home to boutiques and top labels. Haight and Ashbury Streets may have shed much of its hippy heritage in favour of steady gentrification but has still retained an eclectic selection of stores that makes this area one of the most interesting to shop in. In a similar vein, Hayes Valley is also a good bet for a galleries, boutiques and studios. Don't miss Chinatown for a fascinating stir-fry of Asian products, while Alemany Market and San Jose flea market - on the edge of town - offer a hugely varied range of goods.
The best of the many shopping malls are probably Embarcadero Centre and Westfield San Francisco Centre, both packed with retail brands and decent value stores.
Top purchases while in the city include music CDs and books, wine from the Napa Valley, and invariably, miniature reproductions of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Tax can be refunded if goods are shipped outside California; keep your receipts and enquire when departing at the airport.
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